Thursday, 8 December 2011

Presenting the fourth installment in this ongoing, self-obsessed series. A Spotify playlist featuring all available recommended tracks is being built daily alongside the list, and can be found by clicking here.

70. Matinee Club – ‘The Modern’ (2009)
This band clearly have identity issues, since they have switched their name from The Modern to Matinee Club and back again. And named an LP ‘The Modern’ while recording as Matinee Club. These identity issues only stretch as far as naming conventions, however. Musically their wear their hearts on their sleeve, and those hearts are neon-lit and proudly synthpop. There’s a slick veneer of production and a more modern synth sound on this record that just about pulls it away from the 1980s, but the catchy tunes and dual male/female vocals mark it out as a direct 21st century reply to acts from that decade. Relentlessly catchy and laden with infectious melodies, it’s bubblegum as hell but no less nourishing for it.
Recommended Tracks: “Industry”, “Sometimes”, “Suburban Culture”

69. Ryan Shirlow & The Bloody Marys – ‘Demonstrations’ (2005)
I always feel slightly odd including music made by my friends in lists like this – but since I have already stated that this list is personal and therefore inherently biased, there’s not much of a problem this time around. For a number of years, these York-based folk-punkers held a revolving lineup of musicians that specialised in wry black humour and urban disillusionment, lorded over by a forceful and charismatic vocal delivery. Sharing a house with Mr Shirlow led to continual exposure to the songs, but they never dulled despite this. Knowing people like The Bloody Marys is what led me to form the firm conclusion that quality in music has very little to do with how internationally renowned a band are. It sounds obvious now, to intelligent and cultured readers like you, but many young ‘uns have a certain contempt for local music and support acts that never quite goes away – little realising that this is where all bands start. This kicked off a whole thought process that led to my more or less complete disregard for music journalism and the music industry at large. And so here we are. People like Ryan Shirlow & The Bloody Marys have a lot to answer for.
Recommended Tracks: “Folk Song”, “In The Next Life I Think I’ll Talk To Girls”, “Into The Gloom”

68. Labrat – ‘Ruining It For Everyone’ (2002)
Ferocious and chaotic sludge dragged along screaming by a vocal performance that is equal parts demonic roar and tortured squeal, ‘Ruining It For Everyone’ manages to fuse relatively slow-to-medium paced guitar filth with an almost constantly rolling percussion. The result is an LP that can prove quite difficult to focus on, and a sense of impending utter chaos that never quite arrives. It’s an album that doubles as a mission statement, and that statement is that Labrat quite clearly do not give a fuck about anything other than making you spasm like a stunned bull.
Recommended Tracks: “Clint Eastwood Is Very Hard, Innit”, “Phuelled By Farmiceuticals”, “Two Pigs Fucking”

67. Agoraphobic Nosebleed – ‘Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope’ (2002)
A set of cybergrind brass knuckles straight to the gut, Agoraphobic Nosebleed spot weld 3,000mph dirty riffs to 12,000mph machine beats then spew screaming stream-of-consciousness offensiveness over the top of it. Whether or not an individual can get along with ‘Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope’ largely depends on whether you think that collapsing into a corner and giggling for hours while a burly, bearded man thrashes you with a tire iron would be a good way to spend an evening. Because that’s the closest comparison I can make to listening to this album. This album will shit on your floor then bellow for everyone to come and see what it has done. This album will nail your elbow to your knee then taunt you with a half-eaten hunk of meat studded with pills,  whooping with joy every time you fall over trying to get it into your mouth. This album will knock you over then sit on your chest for hours, staring blankly at the walls and occasionally hitting itself in the head with its hairy fists. This album has a track on it called “Hungry Homeless Handjob”, and that’s really all you need to know.
Recommended Tracks: “Kill Theme For American Apeshit”, “Ceremonial Gasmask”, “Grandmother With AIDS”

66. Thursday – ‘Full Collapse’ (2001)
One of my favourite topics when it comes to music journalism is useless genre tags, and post-hardcore is always a good one. Thursday are ‘post-hardcore’ (apparently, if you can actually define that let me know) but regardless of this they do a good job of penning melodic, bittersweet songs marked out by twinkling guitars and Geoff Rickly’s soaring voice. Sometimes the components of a particular band’s sound synchronise and produce an album that is better than the sum of its parts – ‘Full Collapse’ is a prime example of this. It’s not that I dislike the rest of their output, but there is something to this album beyond the sound coming out of the speakers. It hits the zeitgeist of the early 2000s perfectly, switching capably between jagged alt. rock punch and a softer yearning.
Recommended Tracks: “Understanding In A Car Crash”, “Concealer”, “Standing On The Edge Of Summer”

65. Shooting At Unarmed Men – ‘Yes! Tinnitus!’ (2006)
Jon Chapple (formerly of Welsh bile merchants mclusky) leads a merry group of musicians on a dissonant journey into surreal lyrics, alternately moaning and screaming vocals and an overwhelming sense of bitter apathy. It’s much more fun than it sounds. Really. Some tracks veer towards a grunge/alt. indie sound but really ‘Yes! Tinnitus” is far too idiosyncratic to pigeonhole. Amusing and disturbing by turns, this album also contains the song “All Hail Sergio”, which is globally renowned for having donated one of its lyrics to naming this site.
Recommended Tracks: “All Hail Sergio”, “Girls Music”,”In-Flight Instructions Are A Joke, Say I”

64. Red Stars Parade – ‘Disko’ (2005)
A swaying behemoth awash with stomping riffs and carefully hidden melody, ‘Disko’ is also a slowly swelling amorphous monster. The songs don’t so much build as grow organically until you come to the realisation that there is so much more going on in these seemingly simple hard metal constructions than you thought. Standout track “Ruin Vegas” displays this better than any other, a Will Haven-esque underwater carcrash with a howling vocal line that never quite covers the stabbing lead guitar pulling away from the mix and spreading its wings. It’s the closest the album comes to a single, and most of the remainder of the album is covered with a spreading thunderstorm that drills you down with atmosphere and instinct.
Recommended Tracks: “Ruin Vegas”, “World's Greatest Tiger Trainer”, “Zemanova”

63. Meshuggah – ‘Nothing’ (2002)
It’s sometimes difficult to pick favourites between releases – do you pick the album that makes more sense as an articulate collection of music and can be played end to end without a dip in quality, or do you pick the album that is less consistent but has some stunning standout tracks? In the case of ‘Nothing’, I have firmly gone for the former. Held up against the likes of other Meshuggah albums such as ‘Chaosphere’ and ‘obZen’, it lacks in terms of songs that jerk out of the speakers in crazed metal time signatures and pull you back to some weird Swedish dimension. But it more than makes up for that with a strong identity for the LP as a whole, which acts as a giant spiked wheel that rolls onwards, crushing any sense of regular 4/4 time that you might be clinging on to like a baby monkey. Robotically delivered growls somehow synch up with polyrhythms that are delivered like angry judgements from a crazed elder god – Meshuggah produce music as difficult to describe as it is to play, but “Nothing” may be the closest they have come so far to coherency in mood if not in sound.
Recommended Tracks: “Rational Gaze”, “Straws Pulled At Random”, “Spasm”

62. Pig Destroyer – ‘Terrifyer’ (2004)
A second entry today for Scott Hull (also of Agoraphobic Nosebleed), but while both bands could be termed grindcore there is little else they have in common. Where AgNb flourish on relentless assault and mindless offense, Pig Destroyer keep their efforts firmly focused on the finely-tuned lightning guitar strikes and the morbid poetry of their lyrics. Vocalist J.R. Hayes weaves dark spiderwebs in his tales of lust, obsession and despair that belie the brute power of the music behind it, a power even more remarkable on realising it comes from a three-piece band armed with only two instruments. ‘Terrifyer’ is slightly more comfortable listening than previous releases (musically, at least) and has a talent for flaying the listener with one particularly sublime and sharp riff before upping the ante and reinventing a song with an even better one. Then another. Then another. By that time the track is probably nearing two minutes long and therefore past its sell-by date. So Pig Destroyer cast it aside and start all over again, until you know nothing but scars, gravestones and old dead soil.
Recommended Tracks: “Thumbsucker”, “Gravedancer”, “Carrion Fairy”

61. Fuck Buttons – ‘Tarot Sport’ (2009)
Previous installments of this list have led to me being termed a hipster by friends. This entry isn’t going to help my arguments against that accusation. I saw Fuck Buttons live a couple of years ago, and the audience was almost precisely 50/50 hipster vs. neckbeard. If only it had actually been settled in some kind of mass brawl, a more even dynamic might have been reached. ‘Tarot Sport’ builds on the electronic drone introduced by Fuck Buttons on their 2008 debut ‘Street Horrrsing’ and softens it a great deal, while introducing less dissonant sounds, samples and a higher sense of melody – though said melody is no less slow in its build. It’s a sign of good songwriting when you can piece together a ten minute track like “Surf Solar” from relatively repetitive and limited components and still make the listener feel like they have only spent two minutes listening to its upbeat burbles and synthlines. As noted before, there are many challenging albums on this list – this is one of them, but possibly also the most friendly.
Recommended Tracks: “Surf Solar”, “The Lisbon Maru”, “Olympians”

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